© 2018

Jehovah's Witnesses and the Secular World

From the 1870s to the Present

  • Given a special mention of excellence in the senior scholar category for the Giuseppe Alberigo Award conferred by the European Academy of Religion

  • Analyses the influence of Jehovah’s Witnesses from a transnational perspective in a variety of contexts

  • Tackles previously un-discussed issues to present an innovative contribution to the field of Watch Tower studies


Part of the Histories of the Sacred and Secular, 1700-2000 book series (HISASE)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. Zoe Knox
    Pages 1-28
  3. Zoe Knox
    Pages 61-106
  4. Zoe Knox
    Pages 107-147
  5. Zoe Knox
    Pages 149-201
  6. Zoe Knox
    Pages 203-244
  7. Zoe Knox
    Pages 245-291
  8. Zoe Knox
    Pages 293-305
  9. Back Matter
    Pages 307-316

About this book


This book examines the tensions between Jehovah’s Witnesses and government authorities, civic organisations, established churches and the broader public generated by the Watch Tower Society’s teachings. Witnesses originated in the 1870s as small, loose-knit groups calling themselves Bible Students. Today, there are some eight million Witnesses worldwide, all actively engaged in evangelism. The author analyses issues that have brought them global visibility and even notoriety, including political neutrality, public ministry, blood transfusion, and anti-ecumenism.  It also explores anti-Witness campaigns, from media portrayals of the community as marginal and exotic to the anti-cult movement.  Focusing on varied historical, ideological and national contexts, the book argues that Witnesses have had a defining influence on conceptions of religious tolerance in the modern world.


Watchtower Society Religious Tolerance Persecution Charles Russell Joseph Rutherford Nathan Knorr Evangelism Anti-ecumenism

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.School of History, Politics & International RelationsUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUnited Kingdom

About the authors

Zoe Knox is Associate Professor of Modern Russian History at the University of Leicester, UK.

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Jehovah's Witnesses and the Secular World
  • Book Subtitle From the 1870s to the Present
  • Authors Zoe Knox
  • Series Title Histories of the Sacred and Secular, 1700-2000
  • Series Abbreviated Title Histories of the Sacred and Secular, 1700-2000
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, London
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-1-137-39604-4
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-349-67941-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-1-137-39605-1
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIV, 316
  • Number of Illustrations 2 b/w illustrations, 6 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Social History
    History of Religion
    Cultural History
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“For the past few decades, the landmark books on Jehovah’s Witnesses have largely been written by ex-members. Zoe Knox’s impartial, scholarly, and rigorous account of the Watch Tower organisation comes as a welcome contrast, providing useful and illuminating analysis of the Society’s position on several key themes.” (George D. Chryssides, Honorary Research Fellow at York St John University, UK, and author of Historical Dictionary of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jehovah’s Witnesses: Continuity and Change)

“Zoe Knox offers an ambitious study of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Malawi to the Soviet Union. This balanced examination of how minority faiths interact with modern states and societies is a valuable contribution to scholarship on religious tolerance and freedom of conscience, and a must-read for scholars of this religious community.” (Emily B. Baran, Assistant Professor, Middle Tennessee State University, USA, and author of Dissent on the Margins: How Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It)